Automation embraced as UK business saviour as confidence remains below average

By Lucy Ingham

The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer has shown that although confidence among UK businesses has risen slightly since May, it remains below the long-term average, and according to experts, businesses are increasingly turning to automation to plug the gap.

The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer for June, which was published today, showed confidence had risen by three points overall, to 13% – in contrast to May, when it dropped by four points. However, it remains below long term averages as fears surrounding the economy and Brexit continue to impact the country.

“Ongoing political uncertainty unsurprisingly leaves firms’ assessment of the expected impact of the UK leaving the EU largely negative,” said Paul Gordon, managing director for SME and mid corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

“We know SMEs and mid-sized companies are continuing to do their best to withstand this turbulence, but we anticipate confidence will continue to fluctuate in the months ahead.”

Automation embraced as Lloyds Bank Business Barometer highlights concerns

Many companies in the UK are seeking ways to combat low confidence, and according to Ian Pollard, senior vice president EMEA at Signavio, automation is increasingly been seen as the way out of rocky business prospects.

“In this competitive landscape, many businesses are moving towards a strategic focus on automation to speed up processes and increase efficiency gains,” said Pollard.

“Considering the overall impact on the UK economy, organisations need to ensure they understand the general market trends and how their internal processes measure against this operational reality.”

While some aspects of automation remain a few years off in terms of practical integration into business processes, robotic process automation (RPA), which enables companies to automate repetitive tasks, is seeing growing use, according to Pollard.

“Businesses are on the lookout for the technologies and approaches that will help deliver a competitive advantage,” he said.

“Over the coming year, we will see an increase in the amount of companies turning to technologies, such as RPA, to keep up with this pace of change.”

However, businesses are being cautioned about treating such technologies as a ‘magic bullet’ against challenging economic conditions.

“When incorporating new RPA systems, organisations often overlook the ‘process’ element of RPA – which is the foundational block to successful implementation. To avoid fast and massive investment failures, companies need to ensure they are bringing the right processes to life in an improved and optimised way,” advised Pollard.

“Automation is not as simple as just adding robots to your workforce. Instead, you have to ensure that both humans and robots are working in perfect harmony – and at scale. Amidst all this, human oversight and engagement remains critical to managing an increasingly digital workforce and responding to the wider UK economy at large.”

Read more: UK digital skills need “urgent” improvement as 88% of companies face shortage

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